French & US patrol provides hope for the future

2Lt. Agustín López Marín
First published in
SFOR Informer#154, December 19, 2002

From 1 to 7 Dec. 02, numerous units from SFOR took part in the 27th Exercise Joint Resolve. The French Infantry Marine Company (IMC), belonging to the Spanish-French Battle Group (SPFRBG), came to the Multinational Division North (MND-N) at Eagle Base in order to familiarise with the area and its inhabitants by means of several joint patrols.

Bratunac - This Bosnian-Serb town, capital of the municipality bordering with Serbia, was the main location for the joint reconnaissance mission.
Reshuffling a way of life

On Dec. 3, at 09:30 in the US Camp Connor, US Staff Sgt. Brian Evans and French 1Lt. Michel Ladan discussed the forthcoming tasks, unit composition, route, restrictions, constraints, axis of advance and spacing between vehicles. At 10:00, the reconnaissance mission began. Sgt. Evans led the patrol, consisting of one US Humvee, one French P4 Light Vehicle and one French VAB (Armoured Personnel Carrier). Sgt. Evans knows this area well. He often visits families in this area, recording information about their concerns. In Velika Glogova, a hamlet situated five kilometres from Bratunac, are some dispersed farms. "People from small villages need our presence and help the most. They need food supplies and water delivery, urgent medical treatment, medicines, warm clothes, blankets, hearth wood, oil lamps," Evans said. One of the soldiers took notes. The Humvee carried some boxes with articles of clothing, toys and school equipment for children, which the US soldiers distributed. The French soldiers did the same with some food. "We see a great difference in the way of life between people from cities and these from isolated farms. It's very hard for them to rebuild their lives. The worst for them is to have to show their poverty. Our detachments collect information and pass it on to Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) and provide security to the resettlements of people returning to their pre-war homes," said Ladan
Interpreter's job crucial
An old woman invited the soldiers to take a coffee and said: "We live without water, electricity, money for buying food or seeds, and without the chance for our children to attend the school. We are very grateful for your help. You give us a light of hope and there is no way to say thank you enough." It goes without saying that Interpreter's work is crucial. Helena Golic has been an interpreter since 1996, always working with US units. "It is an important role for SFOR soldiers to maintain a relationship with the local community. In the near future, political authorities in BiH must try to develop local economy, to relieve the suffering and improve the life of many people." There were of course other tasks completed during this patrol; "We inform people: if someone wants to give back some weapons, rockets, grenades or ammunitions, he can hand it to SFOR troops or local police. However, our main objective is that the residents become aware of the real danger of minefields and booby-traps. Nowadays, this is the worst and the most dangerous enemy," said US Sgt. Wade Moody.
Almost three hours later, the joint patrol arrived at Bratunac. While four soldiers guarded the vehicles, the remainder patrolled the town by foot. Evans and Golic talked with local population. "The situation improved a lot, as a consequence of SFOR presence," said Evans
French Sgt. Maxime Humbert is on his third peacekeeping mission in BiH. According to him, French units perform similar tasks to US ones, "patrolling the Inter Entity Boundary Line and the Yugoslavian border, testing the de-mining works and providing security to the humanitarian delivery." To see that Bratunac people are accustomed to SFOR presence "fortifies ourselves when these people thank our effort and work," he said.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US, France
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

Helena Golic's job as interpreter is crucial. Sgt. Wade Moody gives warm clothes and school equipment for children.

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First Lt. Michel Ladan and Sgt. Maxime Humbert talk with Staff Sgt. Brian Evans in Bratunac about the main features of the area.

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The US-FR squad deployed in the centre of Bratunac walk through the main streets and squares.

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There is always a moment to forget the consequences of the war's. French Cpl. Steeve Duvivier gives some sweets to a child.